Report of the Netaji Inquiry Committee (1956)

Chapter II: Air Crash at Taihoku (Formosa)

In pursuance of his plan, Netaji was moving out of South-East Asia. He left Singapore on the morning of 16th August 1945, with Col. Habibur Rehman, Col. Pritam Singh, Mr. S, A. Ayer and Mr. Negishi, the Japanese Interpreter, and arrived at Bangkok, the same afternoon. It was arranged that Messrs. Thivy, Chatterjee and Raghavan would follow him. At Bangkok he held meetings with his Ministers, Military advisers, leading members of the Indian Independence League, and made last-minute dispositions. General Bhonsle was to be left in command of the Indian National Army, and a Committee consisting of Sardar Ishar Singh, Pandit Raghunath Sharma and Shri Permanand was to look after the affairs of the League at Bangkok. Large donations were made to the Chulalongkorn Hospital and University, the Indian Association, Bangkok, and the Thai-Bharat Cultural Lodge, and all officers and men were sanctioned two or three months' pay. A small number of Civil and Military Advisers and officers were selected by Netaji to accompany him. These were:

Col. Habibur Rehman,
Major Abid Hasan,
Col. Pritam Singh,
Col. Gulzara Singh,
Mr. Debnath Das, and
Mr. S. A. Ayer.

The movement plan was as usual discussed with General Isoda, Chief of the Japanese Liaison Mission (Hikari Kikan). The latter arranged for two aeroplanes to take the party to Saigon. Saigon was the Headquarters of the Southern Army commanded by Field Marshal Count Terauchi, who was in overall command of all Japanese forces in South-East Asia. Arrangements for transport beyond Saigon were to be made by the Headquarters of that Command.

2. On the morning of the 17th August (slightly different times are given by different witnesses) Netaji and his party arrived at Bangkok Aerodrome. They were seen off by a large number of officers and leaders of the Indian National Army and Indian Independence League. General Isoda of the Hikari Kikan, Mr. Hachiya, the Japanese Envoy to the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, and Mr. Negishi (Interpreter) also accompanied Netaji up to Saigon. In addition to Netaji's personal kit packed in three or four suit-cases, two large suit-cases about 36" long were also put on board the plane. The two large suit-cases contained gold ornaments and other valuables 3A more will be heard of them later. The party travelled in two aeroplanes and arrived safely at Saigon. There is some variation in the time of arrival at Saigon as given by different witnesses. Shri Debnath Das says that they arrived at 8 A.M., whereas, according to Col. Habibur Rehman, the time of arrival was 10 A.M., which is also the time mentioned by Mr. S. A. Ayer. From the aerodrome, the party drove into the town, and took rest in two houses belonging to an Indian gentleman, Mr. Chotir Mai. Whereas in Bangkok, important witnesses were available, unfortunately at Saigon, most of the Indians, who were active in Netaji's time, were no longer there. One alleged eye-witness was an Indian darwan, Ramneo Gosai. He said that Netaji came to the bungalow, accompanied only by two Japanese officers and left hurriedly after having lunch. The statement of this witness may be ascribed to failing memory after eleven years. One Mr. Narain Das, then of the Indian Independence League, Saigon, and now of Tangier, has said that Ramneo told him the same story. Against his testimony, we have the evidence of the much more reliable persons who accompanied Netaji to Saigon. This witness also said that Messrs. Ayer and Chatterjee left that bungalow in Saigon only two days before Netaji's arrival, and that Netaji was enquiring about them. In point of fact, Mr. Ayer was actually accompanying Netaji.

3. At Saigon, however, the arrangements did not work according to expectation. No special plane was available to carry Netaji and his party. F.M. Terauchi's Headquarters had been informed beforehand by the Hikari Kikan of Netaji's pending arrival at Saigon. Col. Yano who was on the staff of the Southern Army has stated that F.M. Terauchi had decided that Netaji should reach Tokyo as soon as possible, but owing to difficulty in obtaining passages by aeroplane, Netaji alone should go. The Headquarters of Southern Army at that time was located at Dalat, a short distance from Saigon, and there were officers posted at Saigon to carry out the orders of the Headquarters. The actual arrangements for transport by air were being made by Lt. Col. Kojima, while Lt. Col. Tada, a Staff Officer from the Headquarters, Southern Army, who usually dealt with the Hikari Kikan, met Netaji's party which included General Isoda. Lt. Col. Tada informed General Isoda that only one seat was available for Netaji in a plane that was leaving Saigon very soon the same day. General Isoda was naturally annoyed, and proceeded at once to Dalat to speak to F.M. Terauchi. On arrival at Dalat Airport, General Isoda was informed by Col. Yano that it was no use seeing the Field Marshal, but he advised him to wait a little at the aerodrome. In point of fact, the Headquarters was in a state of confusion following the Japanese surrender three days earlier. Soon afterwards, General Numata, Chief of General Staff of the Southern Army, rang up General Isoda and told him that he had brought the matter to the notice of the Field Marshal, and 2 or 3 seats besides that of Netaji would be available in a plane shortly. With this assurance General Isoda returned to Saigon, but there he was again met by Lt. Col. Tada, who gave him the disappointing information that the final decision was that only one seat besides Netaji's would be available. When the first proposal of only one seat was broached, Netaji turned it down flat. He insisted that the entire party of his officers and Advisers should go with him. There was a lot of discussion on this subject between Netaji and his Advisers on the one hand, and the Japanese officers on the other. His advisers thought that Netaji should not go all by himself. According to Mr. Debnath Das, who was an Adviser in the Provisional Government of Azad Hind, the Japanese officers had said that Saigon was no longer safe on account of Allied and insurgent activities, and, therefore, Netaji should move on as quickly as possible. When the second offer of two seats was made, there were further discussions. During the course of these discussions, according to Col. Pritam Singh of the I.N.A., the Japanese gave out that as the Allied Forces had restricted the flights of their planes after surrender, they could not be sure whether aeroplanes would be available in the future, and advised Netaji to accept the two seats offered. In the end, Netaji reluctantly agreed to accept the two seats but on condition that those who were left behind were provided with transport on the following day. General Isoda promised to do his best.

4. Netaji selected Col. Habibur Rehman to accompany him. His choice was apparently approved of by the rest of his party, as he was a Senior Staff Officer, and had been in close touch with Netaji for a long time. This has been mentioned by Col. Pritam Singh and Col. Gulzara Singh of the I.N.A. Netaji still did not give up hope of getting more seats in the plane. He told all members of his party to pack up their kit, and come with him to the aerodrome to try their luck. On arrival at Saigon Airport, however, the party was disappointed, as only two seats were available. Netaji's baggage was unloaded from his car. The Chief Pilot said that the baggage was too heavy, and could not be put on the plane, as it was already overloaded. Consequently, Netaji himself discarded a part of his baggage containing books, clothes, etc. The party came to the aerodrome in two cars. Netaji came in the first car. While all these arguments and arrangements were being made, the plane was waiting at the aerodrome. There were a number of Japanese officers who were to go in the same plane. The Japanese were very impatient to start, but this was delayed for about half an hour or so for the arrival of the second car. This car carried two leather suit-cases containing jewellery etc., and Netaji refused to move without them. The plane was already overloaded, and there were protests against loading it any more. In spite of this, the heavy treasure boxes were loaded into the plane. Among the Japanese passengers was a distinguished Military Officer, Lt. General Shidei, lately Chief of the General Staff of the Burma Army, who was proceeding to Manchuria as Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army. General Shidei came out of the plane and greeted Netaji. Although there was an element of chance in Netaji's travelling by the same plane as General Shidei, it appears that Netaji fell in with the idea that he should go up to Dairen (Manchuria) with General Shidei. Mr. Negishi, at that time an Interpreter attached to Netaji's Headquarters, says, "General Shidei was supposed to be an expert on Russian affairs in the Japanese Army, and was considered to be a key man for negotiations with Russia. It was suggested that Netaji should accompany him to Manchuria." It may be mentioned here that before he took up the job of Interpreter, he was working in the important firm of Mitsubishi, and is now the head of that firm in India. Lt. Col. Nonogaki, an Air Staff Officer of the Japanese Army, says, "The plane was scheduled to carry General Shidei to Manchuria. Netaji agreed to go with him to Dairen in Manchuria. So there was no change in the schedule of the plane." The plane itself was a twin-engined heavy bomber of 97-2 (Sally) type, and belonged to the Third Air Force Army stationed at Singapore. There is divergence of opinion on whether it was a new or an old plane. According to Captain Arai and Major Kono, the plane was of the newest type. General Isoda goes so far as to say that it was a brand new one. But Lt. Col. Nonogaki has stated that it was an old plane. General Isayama says that the engine of the plane was worn out. It is unlikely that the plane was a brand new one. The Ground Engineer Capt. Nakamura alias Yamamoto has stated that, while testing the engine at Taihoku, the Chief Pilot Major Takizawa had told him that the port engine had been replaced by a brand new one at Saigon. A brand new plane would not require the replacement of an engine.

5. Besides General Shidei, the plane was carrying five other Japanese Military Officers as passengers. These were:
Lt. Col. Tadeo Sakai, a Staff Officer of the Burma Army.
Lt. Col. Shiro Nonogaki, an Air Staff Officer.
Major Taro Kono, an Air Staff Officer.
Major Ihaho Takahashi, a Staff Officer.
Capt. Keikichi Arai, an Air Force Engineer.

Lt. Col. Sakai is now in Formosa on a special mission. The others are now civilians. Lt. Col. Nonogaki is now the Branch Manager at Osaka of the firm of Tokyo Kagyo Byoeki Shokai Ltd. Major Kono has his printing business in Tokyo. Major Takahashi lives at Kanagawa city in Zushi prefection. Capt. Arai is a lecturer at the Tokyo and Kieo Universities. The crew consisted of five or six persons:
Chief Pilot - Major Takizawa,
Co-Pilot - W/O Ayoagi,
Navigator — Sergeant Okishta,
Radio-Operator - N.C.O. Tominaga,
and one or two engineers, whose names have not come out. Including Netaji and his Adjutant, Col. Habibur Rehman, the plane carried 13 or 14 persons in all. Netaji was in uniform wearing a khaki drill bush-shirt, trousers and shoes, with I.N.A. cap and badges. He bade good-bye to all those who had come to see him, and shook hands with them, telling them that they would meet him soon. After that, he boarded the plane through an entrance on the port side followed by Col. Habibur Rehman. That was the last time his faithful followers, whom he left behind, saw him.

6. At the instance of General Shidei, Lt. Col. Nonogaki made arrangements for the seating of the passengers. As there were no proper seats, passengers had to squat on the floor, Netaji being provided with a cushion. General Shidei, Netaji and Col. Habibur Rehman were given the best seats. General Shidei took the seat usually occupied by the Co-pilot. The crew were in the nose of the plane, while the other military passengers took their seats in the rear of the plane. Col. Habibur Rehman has given a detailed description of the seating arrangements, which is reproduced below, and has illustrated it by sketch:

"The number of occupants in the plane including the crew was 12 or 13. In the nose portion of the plane were probably a Co-pilot, a Radio Officer and Navigator, The seat of the Pilot was behind them on the port side, and opposite to him on the star-board side was sitting Lt. Gen. Shidei. Immediately behind the Pilot was sitting Netaji, and nobody opposite to him, as the space was restricted by the petrol tanks. I was sitting immediately behind Netaji. The Co-pilot's seat occupied by Lt. Gen. Shidei was offered to Netaji but he did not accept, as it was too small for him. In the turret was standing one officer of the Air Force, and in the rear portion probably 4 other officers of the Japanese Air Force or Army. I do not exactly remember their ranks, except the names of one Lt. Col. Nonogaki and Capt. Arai whom I met later, after the crash, in the hospital."

The Committee has examined four of Col. Habibur Rehman's fellow-passengers, namely, Lt. Col. Nonogaki, Major Kono, Major Takahashi and Capt. Arai. Regarding seating arrangements, the versions of the different witnesses tally to a great extent. They all say the same thing about the relative positions of Netaji, General Shidei and Col. Habibur Rehman and the fact that the crew were in the nose and the other officers at the back. There are, however, some discrepancies as to the number of the crew; some say it was four, others say it was five. There is, however, an important difference regarding Major Kono. According to Col. Habibur Rehman and Captain Arai, Major Kono was in the rear, but Major Kono says that he sat ahead of Netaji and talked to him during the flight. Col. Nonogaki also confirms this position. In the first written statement, dated 24-8-1945, by Col Habibur Rehman, which was handed over to the Committee by Mr. J. Murti, It was however stated that there was a Japanese officer sitting between the Pilot and Netaji. So it seems more or less certain that Major Kono was sitting in the front of the plane.

7. The plane took off quite well from Saigon Airfield in the afternoon of the 17th August. There is some difference about the exact time, but most witnesses say that the plane took off between 5 and 5-30 P.M. As there was delay in starting, the Pilot decided to halt for the night at Tourane on the Indo-China coast, instead of flying straight to Formosa. Tourane was reached safely in a couple of hours. There Netaji and the other officers spent the night at the largest hotel in the town. Although the witnesses examined by the Committee could not give the name of the hotel, there is reason to believe that the hotel in question was Hotel Morin which the Committee visited during their trip to the Far East. While taking off at Saigon, the plane had to run the entire length of the runway before it was airborne. This showed that it was overloaded. While the others rested at Tourane, the Chief Pilot, assisted by Major Kono, both Air Force Officers, were busy making the plane lighter. According to Major Kono, no fewer than 12 anti-aircraft machine-guns, and all the ammunitions were taken down from the plane. Some surplus luggage was also discarded, and the total weight reduced by 600 kilos. Thereafter these officers attended to the maintenance of the plane and satisfied themselves that everything was correct.

8. An early start was made next morning (18th August) at about 5 A.M. when the sun was rising. The passengers and crew took their seats in the same order as before. The plane was to follow the route: Saigon - Tourane - Heito (Formosa) - Taihoku (Formosa) - Dairen (Manchuria) - Tokyo. According to Major Takahashi, the normal route for aeroplanes at that time was to proceed to Tokyo via Dairen (Manchuria). The plane was much lighter and the take-off was very normal. During the flight from Tourane to Heito, the weather was perfect and the engines worked smoothly. The plane was flying at an altitude of about 12,000 ft. and it was quite cold inside the plane. As the weather was favourable, it was decided to cover some more distance, pass over Heito, and land at Taihoku which is the Japanese name for Taipeh, capital of Formosa. According to Major Kono, during the flight, information was received that the Russians had occupied Port Arthur. It was feared that they might be in Dairen before long, and it became all the more necessary to reach there as quickly as possible. The plane landed safely and smoothly at Taihoku Airfield sometime in the afternoon. The landing time has been stated by different witnesses between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M.

9. On landing, everybody got down from the plane and walked to a nearby tent, rested there, and had light lunch of sandwiches and bananas. The tent had been pitched for a Japanese prince who was expected to pass through Taihoku. The Prince was carrying orders from the Emperor to various Army Commanders to surrender. As the plane had been flying high, Col. Habibur Rehman was feeling cold, and on landing, changed into warm serge uniform of bush-coat, breeches and top-boots. He asked Netaji, who said that he did not feel cold. All the same, Col. Habibur Rehman handed him a pullover. It is not clear whether Netaji did put on the warm pullover or not. Different witnesses have given the time of halt at Taihoku Airfield from half an hour to two hours. During this time, the plane was re-fuelled. The engines of the plane were also tested and checked. This was done by the Chief Pilot Major Takizawa, helped by Major Kono and the ground staff of the aerodrome, headed by Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto. As the state of the engine has an important bearing on the subsequent crash, it might be worthwhile to quote the relevant portions from the statements of Major Kono and Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto. Major Kono says, "Mr.Takizawa tested it inside, and I tested it from outside. I noticed that the engine of the left side of the plane was not functioning properly. I, therefore, went inside the plane and after examining the engine inside, I found it to be working all right...An engineer also accompanies the plane. He was accompanying it on this occasion also. I do not remember his name. He also tested the engine and certified its air-worthiness." Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto who was the ground engineer in charge of maintenance at Taihoku Aerodrome says, "At about 1-20 P.M. Major Takizawa and Co-pilot Ayoagi got into the plane and tested it. I was standing just in front of the plane. When they started the engine, I found that one of them was defective. I raised my hand to indicate to him (Major Takizawa) that the engine of the left side was defective. On my signal indicating that the engine was defective, Major Takizawa leaned out to listen to me. I told him that the left engine was defective, and should be put right. Major Takizawa slowed down the engine and told me that it was a brand new engine which had been replaced at Saigon. After slowing down the engine, he adjusted it for about 5 minutes. The engine was tested twice by Major Takizawa. After being adjusted, I satisfied myself that the condition of the engine was all right. Major Takizawa also agreed with me that there was nothing wrong with the engine."

10. Thereafter, all the passengers, after having had their rest and lunch took their seats again in the plane in the same order of seating as before, that is to say, with the crew in the nose of the plane, Major Kono sitting behind the pilot on the port side, behind them Netaji and Col. Habibur Rehman, on the star-board side General Shidei, and in the rear portion the other Japanese officers. Although the engine had been tested, the take-off from Taihoku was not quite normal. The best account of the take-off has been given by Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto, who was a Ground Engineer, and who was watching the plane. The other passengers inside the bomber could not see very much, as there were very few openings. There is some difference between the witnesses as to the actual time of the taking-off, but most of them put the time between 2 and 2-30 in the afternoon. Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto says, "After everybody had taken seat in the plane, the plane taxied to one end of the runway. Having reached the point, the engines of the plane speeded up to the maximum speed, and then slowed down. This was a normal procedure which all Japanese planes followed to test the fitness of the engines. Having satisfied that the engines were correct, the plane was speeded and allowed to run down the runway. The length of the runway was 890 metres. In the case of heavy bombers, normally the tail gets lifted half-way down the runway but in this case, the tail was not lifted off the ground until it had run approximately 3/4ths down the runway. At that time I was standing at a point which was about 30 metres away from the air-strip. About 50 metres before the end of the runway, the plane took off and made a steep ascent." The plane had carried the distinguished leader of the Indian Independence Movement and his fellow-passengers, from Saigon to Tourane, and from Tourane to Formosa over the South China Sea in safety, and nobody had any idea that disaster would overtake the plane without warning and so soon after leaving Taihoku Airfield.

11. Hardly had the plane got airborne, when a loud explosion was heard, and the plane tilted to the left. Col. Habibur Rehman has said that it was a noise like a cannon shot. The propeller and the port engine fell out. Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto who was watching says, "Immediately on taking off, the plane tilted to its left side and I saw something fall down from the plane, which I later found was the propeller." Major K. Sakai who came to the scene sometime later says that he found the port engine buried in the ground. The Pilot Major Takizawa and the Co-pilot Ayoagi made desperate attempts to save the situation but without success. The list could not be rectified within the short height that the plane had gained. Witnesses inside the plane have given different estimates of the height, but most of them say that the maximum height gained was about 30 metres. Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto, who had the best view, has estimated the height between 30 to 40 metres. Mr. A.M.N. Sastri, an Aircraft Inspector of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Government of India, has said, in answer to a question, that considering that the aircraft left the ground 50 metres before the end of the runway and started climbing, the figure of 30 to 40 metres given by witness Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto appeared to him to be reasonable. The plane nose-dived, making a wailing noise. The passengers inside the plane had not even seat-belts and naturally lost their balance. The baggage came tumbling down. Col. Habibur Rehman has said that he was struck in the back by some of the packages. Captain Arai has graphically described his feelings by saying that the earth was rushing towards him. Major Kono had the presence of mind to try and switch off the ignition to prevent the plane from catching fire, but failed to do so as he could not keep his balance. He fell two or three times in the attempt. The plane crashed to the ground and immediately caught fire in the front portion. According to Mr. A.M.N. Sastri, it would take only 3 seconds to fall from a height of 50 metres. Some witnesses, like Lt. Col. Nonogaki, have stated that the plane crashed on the concrete runway; on the other extreme, Col. Habibur Rehman had said that the crash took place one or two miles outside the aerodrome. The most credible version is probably that of the Ground Engineer, Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto, who says that the plane crashed about 100 metres beyond the concrete runway. His version is supported by Major Sakai who was in command of defence of Taihoku Aerodrome. He says that he saw the wreckage of the plane lying 20 to 30 metres from the end of the runway. One of the passengers, Major Takahashi, also says that the crash took place just outside the concrete runway, but within the boundary of the aerodrome.

12. As the plane came down on its nose, it crashed on its left side and caught fire in its front portion. It appears from the statements of the witnesses that the plane also suffered severe damage, and broke into two. Captain Arai, Lt: Col. Nonogaki and Major Kono have stated that on crashing the plane broke into two. They have illustrated the point at which the plane broke into two by supplying sketches of the plane. Major Sakai who came to the scene immediately after the accident and saw the wreckage of the plane also supports this version. On the other hand, according to Col. Habibur Rehman, the plane split in the front portion, while Capt. Nakamura alias Yamamoto is positive that the plane was intact and the body was not broken. He, however, says that the fire was confined to the front part of the plane. It is likely that the plane, on falling to the ground, would sustain damage to its structure. So, on examining the probabilities and weight of evidence, a major breakage in the rear part of the fuselage may be accepted. There might have been breakages and splits elsewhere also. But from a study of the photographs of the wreckage (Annexure - II) it does not appear that the broken parts got separated nor is any support lent to the statement of Lt. Col. Nonogaki that the two split parts went in different directions on the ground.

13. What happened to the persons inside the aeroplane? The crash affected different persons differently. Of the seven persons in the plane who ultimately survived, the Committee has examined in person five of them, and read the statement recorded by a sixth, Lt. Col. T. Sakai. Lt. Col. Nonogaki who was in the turret was the luckiest. As the plane crashed, he was thrown out to the ground almost unhurt. He got up and ran away from the burning plane, and took shelter behind a pile of stones, against which the wrecked plane ultimately came to a halt. Lt. Col. Sakai, Major Takahashi and Captain Arai became senseless the moment the plane crashed, but found themselves soon after on the ground, and moved away from the burning plane. Clearly, they had been thrown out. In the process, they received injuries and burns. Lt. Col. Sakai stated that he received bruises on his head and some other parts, and burns on his face and hands, but they were not serious. Major Takahashi's left ankle was sprained. Injuries of Capt. Arai were more serious. The right side of his face, the upper side of both his hands and the front portion of his forearm got burnt. Marks of these burns were still visible when he appeared before the Committee 11 years later. Major Kono was clearly an alert and observant person. At the moment of crash, instead of being flustered, he had his wits about him, and noticed what others were doing. He says, "As the plane was falling to the ground, the petrol tank inside the plane fell down, and came between me and Mr. Bose. I looked backwards but could not see Mr. Bose because of this tank. I could see General Shidei after the plane crash. He had a cut injury at the back of his head. Major Takizawa was hit in the face and on forehead by the steering which he was operating. N.C.O. Ayoagi was hit in the chest which was bleeding, and he was leaning forward. There was another engineer between me and N.C.O. Ayoagi. I do not know what happened to him. During this time, the fire spread greatly and the heat became unbearable. I broke open the plastic cover on top of the plane and escaped through it. While escaping, the fire was so strong that I had to protect my eyes by covering them with my hands which, as a result, got burnt, and my face and legs were also burnt. As I was escaping from the plane, I got splashed by petrol which was coming out from a pipe which connected the petrol tank with the engine which had been brought down. The petrol which was so splashed caught fire. I ran about 30 metres and then rolled on the ground and put out the fire; at the same time, I also took off my outer garment which had caught fire. In this way, I managed to put out the fire that was burning on me."

It may be mentioned here that Major Kono was under treatment for 18 months, and even after the protracted treatment the skin of his face looked severely burnt when he appeared before the Committee 11 years after. He lost all his teeth and wore false teeth. Four of the fingers of his right hand, i.e., excepting the thumb, were damaged and misshapen, and he could not clinch his right fist. The little finger of the left hand was also damaged and he could not clinch that fist in full. Both his hands were deformed. A picture of Major Kono's pair of hands was taken. They tell their own story.

14. Now we come to Col. Habibur Rehman and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. An extract from the statement of Col. Habibur Rehman as to what happened to him and Netaji immediately after the crash is given below in extenso:

"Within a few seconds, the plane crashed on the ground, and fore-portion of the plane split and caught fire. Netaji turned towards me. I said, 'Please get out through the front: there is no way in the rear.' (Augey Say Nikaleay, Pichay Say Rasta Nahin Hay). We could not get through the entrance door as it was all blocked and jammed by packages and other things. So Netaji got out through the fire; actually he rushed through the fire. I followed him through the same flames. The moment I got out, I saw him about 10 yards ahead of me, standing, looking in the opposite direction to mine towards the west. His clothes were on fire. I rushed and I experienced great difficulty in unfastening his bush-shirt belt. His trousers were not so much on fire and it was not necessary to take them off. He was not wearing the sweater. He was wearing khaki drill. I laid him down on the ground and noticed a very deep cut on his head, probably on the left side. His face had been scorched by heat and his hair had also caught fire and singed. The cut in his head was a long one, about 4 inch. I tried to stop his bleeding by handkerchief. As for myself, both my hands were very badly burnt. As I came through the fire, the right side of my face was burnt and I noticed I had received a cut in the forehead which was bleeding and the right side of my right knee was also bleeding profusely, as it had hit some hard substance. The head cut was caused by hitting the floor as the plane crashed. My clothes did not catch fire. My hands were burnt very badly in the attempt to take off Netaji's clothes. Both my hands up to the wrist show marks of deep burning even after a lapse of more than ten years. Later on, even my nails came off. The nail of the left thumb has not come up properly."

(NOTE)- The members of the Committee examined the hands and saw marks of severe burns. Marks of burns were also noticed on the right side of the face and just near the right ear. Injury marks were also seen on the forehead and right leg.

"When I laid Netaji on the ground, I myself lay by his side. I was feeling acute pain and felt exhausted. I saw a Japanese passenger about 20 yards away bleeding profusely and moaning. Just then, Netaji enquired from me in Hindustani: Aap Ko Ziada To Nahin Lagi? (Hope you have not been hurt badly.) I replied, 'I feel that I will be all right.' About himself he said that he felt that he would not survive. I replied, 'Oh! No, God will spare you. I am sure you will be all right.' He said, 'No, I don't think so.' He used these words:

"When you go back to the country, tell the people that up to the last I have been fighting for the liberation of my country; they should continue to struggle, and I am sure India will be free before long. Nobody can keep India in bondage now."
(Jab Apney Mulk Wapis Jayen To Mulki Bhaiyon Ko Batana Ki Men Akhri Dam Tak Mulk Ki Azadi Key Liyay Larta Raha Hoon; Woh Jange Azadi Ko Jari Rakhen. Hindustan Zaroor Azad Hoga, Us Ko Koi Gulam Nahin Rakh Sakta.)"

In a way this was Netaji's last testament and very characteristic of him. It was in keeping with the oath he took to fight for the Independence of India till his last breath when he established the Provisional Government of Azad Hind on 21st October 1943.

15. Lt. Col. Sakai and Captain Arai do not mention that they had seen Netaji immediately after the crash. Lt. Col. Nonogaki did. He says, "When I first saw Netaji after the plane crash, he was standing somewhere near the left tip of the left wing of the plane. His clothes were on fire and his Assistant was trying to take off his coat. He took of Netaji's coat quickly but was finding difficulty in taking off the woollen sweater. Since Netaji was sitting very near the petrol tank, he was splashed all over with petrol. It seemed that all his body was on fire." Major Kono says that he saw Netaji standing very near the plane facing away from it. He was standing erect with his legs apart and arms stretched downwards with clinched fists. He was completely naked and was wearing only his shoes. He did not see any fire on his body. Major Kono goes on to say that while he himself was feeling the heat of the flames 30 metres away, Netaji who was standing a couple of metres away from them seemed to be oblivious of the heat. His face did not show any sign of pain. Then Col. Habibur Rehman moved him away from the burning plane. Major Takahashi gives a somewhat different version. He says that he saw Netaji getting out from the left front portion of the plane. His clothes were on fire and he was trying to take off his coat. Then he says that he (Major Takahashi) went up to Netaji and made him roll on the ground and managed to put out the fire from his clothes. He says that Col. Habibur Rehman was there, but assigns him a passive role. He goes on to say that petrol had splashed only on certain parts of Netaji's clothes and only those patches were burnt. His trousers were burnt only slightly. While other witnesses have said that Netaji had to take off his clothes and was naked, Major Takahashi says that Netaji had his clothes on. As for Netaji's clothes being on fire, all the eye-witnesses who had seen him agree. As for who helped to put out the fire, it seems much more likely that Col. Habibur Rehman should have been the man to have come to the aid of his leader. The version given by Col. Habibur Rehman and supported by the two more observant witnesses, namely, Lt. Col. Nonogaki and Major Kono appears more credible than the version of Major Takahashi. The Ground Engineer Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto has given a completely different version. He also says that Netaji's clothes were splashed with petrol and had to be stripped, but he claims that it was he (Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto) who rescued the passengers from the burning plane, and specially Netaji. This version is completely uncorroborated by anybody else, and may perhaps be put down to confused recollection after such a lapse of time.

16. Of the other Japanese inside the plane, passengers and crew, General Shidei could not get out and died inside the plane. It may be of interest to mention that a copy of General Shidei's service record (translated in English) was obtained through the Japanese Foreign Office, a copy, of which is enclosed (Annexure I). It will be seen that the date of his death was 18th August 1945 at Taihoku Airfield. The cause is given as death by war. His ashes were sent to Tokyo a week later through General Tanaka, Chief of General Staff, Burma Army, who passed through Taihoku a week later en route to Tokyo with Dr. Ba Maw, President of Burma. Some of the crew were apparently rescued. There is some doubt about the fate of the two pilots and some of the crew who were initially trapped inside the plane. Captain Nakamura alias Yamamoto definitely says that Pilot Takizawa and Co-pilot Ayoagi perished along with General Shidei, and he helped to bury their entrails and put their ashes in three boxes. But Major Kono says that he heard that Co-pilot Ayoagi had been pulled out. The two Doctors, Yoshimi and Tsuruta, definitely say that they had treated Co-pilot Ayoagi who died later in the hospital. From all this it would appear that General Shidei died instantaneously, One or two others also died with him, but it is not certain who they were. Most likely Major Takizawa, Chief Pilot, was one of them. The rest, passengers and crew numbering about a dozen, were removed within a short time to Nanmon (South Gate) Military Hospital which was a few kilometres away, in motor vehicles, trucks, cars and a peculiar vehicle, called "Shidosha" in Japanese, which was used for starting aeroplane propellers.

17. Before going on with the story of medical treatment in the hospital, account may conveniently be taken here regarding the air crash — whether the crash took place, its cause, and whether there could be any survivor. From the evidence given to the Committee, there is sufficient material to believe that the plane carrying Netaji crashed at Taihoku Airfield early in the afternoon of the 18th August 1945. There is no reason to disbelieve the large number of witnesses, both Japanese and non-Japanese. There is no evidence before us to show that the plane in question did not crash at Taihoku. Unfortunately, no formal enquiry into the air crash was carried out by the Japanese authorities at that time. General Isayama, Chief of the General Staff of the Formosan Army in 1945, was asked about this matter. He first said that since the aeroplane in question did not belong to the Formosan Army, the Headquarters of the Formosan Army had no responsibility to hold an enquiry into the matter. Then he said that it was the duty of the Commander, within whose area an air crash took place, to enquire into, and report it to the higher authorities. He said that in this case a report was submitted to the Imperial General Headquarters by his Staff Officer, Lt. Col. Shibuya, through him. Lt. Col. Shibuya, who was also examined, denied knowledge of any such enquiry, and said that the responsibility of holding it lay entirely with the Air Division concerned. This matter was pursued further by the Committee and a report was obtained from the Japanese Foreign Office to confirm that no official enquiry was held into the air crash by the Japanese authorities (Annexure I). One would have expected a formal enquiry into the air crash as it involved important personalities like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Lt. Gen. Shidei. Perhaps, there was disorganisation following the surrender of Japan on the 15th of August. We referred the available evidence regarding the plane, its condition and the crash, to the Director General of Civil Aviation, Government of India, on our return to Delhi, after placing on record the evidence of Japanese witnesses. The Director General of Civil Aviation had these papers examined by an expert, and the Committee recorded the opinion of Mr. A. M. N. Sastri, an Aircraft Inspector, Accidents Investigation Branch, regarding the accident and its cause. Shri Sastri's opinion was:
"From the statement of witnesses, sketches and photographs, it appears that the aircraft crashed, and after the take-off, within the boundary of the aerodrome. The maximum height attained by the plane might have been anything up to 150 feet. The initial cause of the plane falling to the ground, according to the statement of witnesses, is the breaking away of the propeller and then the engine on the left-hand side. It is not possible to establish the exact cause as to how the propeller came off from the engine from the details available. In the absence of details of construction of the engine and the various control systems, and the maintenance records, and without examining the wreckage, it is not possible to trace the exact defect causing the crash. As observed by Major Kono, one of the witnesses, the engine seems to have been defective and over-speeding at the time of the take-off from Saigon. This appears to have something to do with the crash."

Regarding the effect of the crash and chances of survival, Mr. Sastri has said, "Taking into consideration the starting point of the fire to be from the starboard front as stated by Major Kono and the location of the petrol tank and also the inadequacy of emergency provision, it may be stated that,
(1) those who were in the front could be the worst sufferers;
(2) those who were in the centre left could be seriously injured; and
(3) those who were in the rear could have chances of survival."

He went on to elucidate: "In case of air accident, the survival of passengers or members of the crew is purely a matter of luck. I have come across accidents where in major crashes the occupants survived, whereas in similar accidents they died. It is very difficult to predict anything accurately as far as the survival of passengers in an aircraft accident is concerned."

18. From the evidence given by the witnesses and the opinion of the expert, it is established that there was an aircraft accident at Taihoku on the 18th August 1945 due to some kind of engine trouble, the cause of which cannot be established clearly in the absence of data. As for survivors, there is nothing surprising that seven out of the 13 or 14 persons on board the ill-fated plane survived. It is not a fact that Col. Habibur Rehman alone survived to tell the tale. So far as has been ascertained, the following persons survived:

(1) Lt. Col. T. Sakai,
(2) Lt. Col. S. Nonogaki,
(3) Major T. Kono,
(4) Major I. Takahashi,
(5) Captain K. Arai,
(6) Sergeant Okishta, and
(7) Col. Habibur Rehman.

Of these survivors, the Committee could not examine in person Lt. Col. T. Sakai (1) who was away from Japan. As stated previously, a written statement was obtained from him through the Japanese Foreign Office. Attempts were made to trace Sergeant Okishta (6), but he was not found.